Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir the lye (sodium hydroxide) into the distilled water until dissolved. Work in an area with good ventilation and be careful not to breathe in the fumes. Set the lye solution aside to cool for about 30 or 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).
Gently heat the coconut oil and shea or mango butter on low heat until melted. When the solid oils are melted, take the pan off the heat and pour in the liquid oils. This helps cool down the melted oils, while warming up the room temperature oils.
Add the pumpkin puree to the warmed oils and blend well with an immersion blender (stick blender). Pour the cooled lye solution into the warmed oils/pumpkin mixture. Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, stir the soap batter until it thickens and reaches trace. Trace is when the soap has thickened enough so when you drizzle a small amount of the batter across the surface, it will leave a fleeting, but visible imprint or trace before sinking back in.
Pour the soap batter into your soap mold. Cover lightly with wax or freezer paper, then a towel or light blanket. Peek at the soap every so often; if it starts developing a crack, uncover and move to a cooler location.
Keep the soap in the mold for 1 to 2 days, or until it’s easy to remove, then slice it into bars when it’s firm enough not to stick to your cutting tool. Cure on coated cooling racks or sheets of wax paper for about 4 weeks before using. The soap is safe to touch 48 hours after making it but it needs the extra time to allow the excess moisture to evaporate out.
If you don’t have shea or mango butter, try using cocoa or kokum butter, tallow or lard for a similar effect. To further enhance the recipe, you could add 1 tbsp ground oats (at trace) and/or 1 tbsp dried milk powder (with the pumpkin). All oils, butters, water, lye and pumpkin should be measured by weight. You need an accurate scale to make soap.
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